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01-03-2011 | Original Article | Uitgave 2/2011

Psychological Research 2/2011

Implicit chord processing and motor representation in pianists

Psychological Research > Uitgave 2/2011
Pietro Davide Trimarchi, Claudio Luzzatti


The aim of this paper is to assess the relevance of pitch dimension in auditory–motor interaction. Several behavioural and brain imaging studies have shown that auditory processing of sounds can activate motor representations, an effect which is however elicited only by action-related sounds, i.e., sounds linked to a specific motor repertoire. Music provides an appropriate framework for further exploration of this issue. Three groups of participants (pianists, non-pianist musicians and non-musicians) were tested with a shape decision task where left-hand and right-hand responses were required; each visual stimulus was paired with an auditory task-irrelevant stimulus (high-pitched or low-pitched piano-timbre chords). Of the three groups, only pianists had longer reaction times for left-hand/high-pitched chords and right-hand/low-pitched chords associations. These findings are consistent with an auditory-motor effect elicited by pitch dimension, as only pianists show an interaction between motor responses and implicit pitch processing. This interaction is consistent with the canonical mapping of hand gestures and pitch dimension on the piano keyboard. The results are discussed within the ideo-motor theoretical framework offered by the Theory of Event Coding (Hommel et al. in Behav Brain Sci 24:849–937, 2001).

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